On any given day, I'm probably wearing more secondhand pieces than not. Most of the pieces I own come from charity shops like Oxfam, but also a lot of vintage from Etsy, Vestiaire and eBay. Because really, as an international student in London, I can't afford a lot of the designer pieces I lust after, and I try to avoid fast fashion where I can. If I buy new, I save up to buy from local independent brands. It has always been the unique secondhand pieces that I would hold onto after wardrobe clear outs, so I made a conscious decision to dedicate my time to finding the exact right ones for me and caring for them.
Photo:On Isabel: Vintage Burberry trench coat from Vestiaire Collective; Vintage Cole Haan loafers.
I love imagining the story of the secondhand pieces I buy, I love giving clothes a second life rather than sending them to waste. Of course, I understand that I am lucky in my position (I am conscious that I am fortunate to be able to wait to buy something and take the time to hunt down pieces I really love). And, as a size 10, I can often fit into secondhand pieces easily.
But as we consumers continue to push for better secondhand options, better solutions are becoming available. Oxfam is now and there are new platforms like , which connects vintage lovers to different forms thrift shopping, making it easier and more accessible to everyone.
Photo:On Isabel: Vintage dress from ; bag.
I love Instagram vintage spots like , , and . Sometimes, though, because they are so popular, I miss a drop or can't afford to buy the pieces I love. So one trick I've learned is to use the descriptions on the pieces I love most in the search engines on Vestiaire, Etsy and eBay, and I can usually track down something similar.
Over time, I've become quite savvy at hunting down the pieces that take your money furthest and really are worth the investment of time and money. As always, I am increasingly aware of my consumption, and try not to replace my old shopping habit of new pieces with vintage. With every purchase, I really question if I need it, as there are still waste costs with vintage shopping—especially when shopping online (like carbon emissions with shipping, and packaging).
But what connects you and me, dear reader, is our love of fashion. If you do buy something—remember, not buying anything is the most sustainable option—let's do our best to shop well. With that in mind, keep scrolling to see if there are any forever pieces waiting for you in my vintage edit from Vestiaire, Etsy, and eBay.
Of course, this edit is subjective to my style. With the world at your fingertips when it comes to vintage pieces online, you can use my tips to discover your own love of secondhand shopping. There's so much to explore. Also, the product imagery might not be as sharp as you're used to, but that's just part of the magic of vintage.
Photo:On Isabel: Vintage dress; vintage beaded bag from Lucia Zolea
Etsy really is my first port-of-call when it comes to secondhand shopping online. I use broad search terms, like "pink mohair cardigan," and narrow it down to "vintage" and "United Kingdom" in the filter bar. I'd suggest being really inventive with your search terms, and then if you find a shop that offers nice price points and aesthetic taste that aligns with you, search what else they have. Get wacky, too! Try searching for decades and fabrics. Exploration is key for shopping on Etsy. Just be sure to limit your search location so you don't accidentally import something from the U.S. and have to pay extra customs fees.
This might look like something you'd find in Zara right now, but it's the genuine thing that probably inspired their design. When it comes to Etsy, pay attention measurements, rather than sizes. Vintage sizing is very different from what we're used to now, so know your numbers before you make a purchase.
I love checking Etsy for the vintage version of trend pieces. They are often much more affordable and are, in fact, the real thing. Pleated skirts came back in a real way this year and there are so many available on Etsy because it's actually a totally vintage look.
I love Etsy for buying vintage pyjamas, like antique French nightgowns and silky robes. But it's bed jackets that are a real obsession of mine. Why did these ever go out of fashion? They're fabulous! Whether you wear them around your flat on chilly winter nights or take them out into the world in a daytime outfit (I do), I think we should bring them back. If that doesn't convince you, Ganni made one this season, so they have the Scandi-cool appeal too.
I live in cosy knitted jumpers and there's nothing better in finding one that was likely handmade in the 1980s. You can feel the love when you put it on! Fair Isle knits are one of my favourites to search for.
Etsy is a really great resource for winter coats. I love having options when it comes to coats and Etsy has an endless stream of fabulously made ones from all decades. This knitted one is fully lined with excellent big pockets, I adore the hood.
The best thing about Etsy might just be the extensive collection of adorable, totally unique tiny evening bags. From 1920s silk embroidery to 1950 beaded bags, there are just so many!
Photo:On Isabel: vintage top; Vintage Celine bag from Vestiaire Collective.
Vestiaire is where I come for really special pieces. I spend time combing through its vintage section and adding pieces to my wish list. After some consideration and saving, this is the place I'll invest in something I know I will keep forever. It's where I bought a Burberry trench for £100 and 1980s Celine bag for £200.
Vestiaire has an amazing collection of vintage Courrèges pieces. I'd love to collect them all, but I especially love the logo knits.
I love looking through the "unsigned" pieces on Vesitiaire because they are usually the most affordable since they are not branded. This dress is dreamy for party season.
Prada nylon bags have become so incredibly popular, but that doesn't take away from their timelessness. With plastic-based fabrics like nylon and PVC, vintage is a better option than producing new.
I'm an avid vintage white-blouse collector because I find the shape and quality of the cotton is just so good. I love ones with dramatic or ruffled collars, as they work in summer and in winter when layered under cardigans and jumpers.
I mean, how fab are these?! The entire vintage sunglasses collection is dreamy on Vestiaire, it's actually hard to decide which to buy. I also love the oversized pieces from the '70s and '80s.
I have a Jackie cloth bag in black that I saved up for ages for and wear it almost every day. It's a perfect size (fits a book) and is super durable. Plus, it's such a classic shape and iconic namesake. Cloth bags are a great way to buy a vintage designer bag at a more affordable price.
Photo:On Isabel: Vintage Laura Ashley dress; secondhand satin bag.
I find eBay the most hit-and-miss of all three, but it's worth mentioning because it's become rather a classic at this point. When I first moved to the UK, I found a vintage Jaeger coat made from cashmere and wool for £20. Again, try out different search terms from broad, like "black cashmere coat" or something more specific like "Laura Ashley dress." (Don't forget that you can search using sizes.)
I always explore related searches as well and just let the internet take me where I need to go. Oh, and don't forget you can sell things here too. I think it's important to understand that we might all not, in fact, love our pieces forever. Let's just do our best to keep our clothes in the system by giving to friends or reselling online.
I have a version of this Laura Ashley dress in black (see above) and I always get compliments when I wear it out. Laura Ashley is a major inspiration on designers this year, so why not go straight to the source?
I love searching "heritage" British high-street brands on eBay like Jaeger, Debenhams and St Michael. They have a ton of very well-made pieces in varying sizes and at super affordable prices.
As mentioned already, I love finding quality knits at a good price. Angora and cashmere vintage pieces are so worth the hunt—they'll keep you cosy for years and years. If moths get to them, take them to your local dry cleaners or YouTube how to darn the holes.
Saint James tops are usually so expensive and for good reason. They are made to last! If cared for, this classic will last you decades. It's an Alexa Chung favourite, too!
I hope this helped you love secondhand shopping online a bit more and just generally encouraged you to love your clothes. Don't forget to pop into your local charity shops as well. I'm always on the hunt for better secondhand options, so so we can keep the conversation going.